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The Best Native American Poems, Proverbs and Sayings

These are my modern English translations of some of my favorite Native American poems and proverbs. I translated the first two poems when my father, Paul Ray Burch Jr., made the decision to stop taking dialysis and thus end his life. 

translations by Michael R. Burch

Cherokee Travelers' Blessing
translation by Michael R. Burch

I will extract the thorns from your feet.
For a little while, we will walk life's sunlit paths together.
I will love you like my own brother, my own blood.
When you are disconsolate, I will wipe the tears from your eyes.
And when you are too sad to live, I will put your aching heart to rest.

Cherokee Travelers' Blessing
translation by Michael R. Burch

Happily may you walk
in the paths of the Rainbow.
and may it always be beautiful before you,
beautiful behind you,
beautiful below you,
beautiful above you,
and beautiful all around you
where in Perfection beauty is finished.

Cherokee Proverb
translation by Michael R. Burch

Before you judge
a man,
be sure to trudge
a mile in his moccasins.


an original poem by Michael R. Burch

Tashunka Witko, better known as Crazy Horse, had a vision of a red-tailed hawk at Sylvan Lake, South Dakota. In his vision he saw himself riding a spirit horse, flying through a storm, as the hawk flew above him, shrieking. When he awoke, a red-tailed hawk was perched near his horse.

and yet I now fly
through the clouds that are aimlessly drifting ...
so high
that no sound
echoing by
below where the mountains are lifting
the sky
can be heard.

Like a bird,
but not meek,
like a hawk from a distance regarding its prey,
I will shriek,
not a word,
but a screech,
and my terrible clamor will turn them to clayŚ
the sheep,
the earthbound.

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